Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Queets Rain Forest in Olympic National Park

From the relatively popular and easily accessible Quinault Rain Forest, we drove in the direction of the more secluded Queets Rain Forest. Our plan was to go on a longer (7-mile) hike there.

The road leading to the trailhead was spectacular and we stopped several times to take pictures (see below). Unfortunately, as we were driving further away from the main road passing through the Olympic NP, the road was getting worse and worse, and finally turned into a steep slippery gravel road. Anil felt uncomfortable driving there and voiced concern that our car did not have sufficient clearance and tire size to go further. Even though I was more optimistic about the capabilities of our car, I agreed with Anil that we should play it safe and turn around. Since we had entered Olympic NP four hours earlier, we met only four other people and saw a handful of cars, and since we had turned into the side road leading to the Queets Rain Forest, we did not meet a single soul. So even a small car accident or a flat tire would have put as in a very difficult situation. Hence, we decided to abort our initial plan of hiking there and head for the beach instead.

However, the little that we saw of the Queets Rain Forest looked very promising, so if you happen to go to Olympic NP in a 4-wheel drive, or at least a high clearance vehicle, be sure to check it out.

The road leading to the Queets Rain Forest:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Quinault Valley Rain Forest in Olympic National Park

We spent three days in Olympic NP, during which we went on multiple hikes in several different parts of the park. Three days were barely enough to fully experience Olympic NP, as it is probably the most diverse national park in the US; it protects a rain forest, beautiful and wild coast and beaches, several lakes and mountains, as well as a variety of plants and animals.

The very first hike that we did in the park was the Maple Glade Rain Forest Hike in the Quinault Rain Forest, near Lake Quinault. It was a short (1 mile round trip), level, mostly boardwalk hike, that within seconds brought us to the heart of the temperate rain forest. The landscape there was dominated by Giant western hemlocks, Douglas-firs, and Sitka spruce trees, and forest floor was covered by ferns and moss.

Even though it was a short hike, both Anil and I enjoyed it a lot. We loved how lush green it was and how fresh the air felt. As a matter of fact, we loved it so much that we did not even mind that it was raining all the time we were there. The thick forest cover was anyway pretty good at protecting us from the rain.

The Quinault Rain Forest:

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cape Disappointment

Our initial trip plan did not include a visit to Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, as I had no idea that the park existed. As we were driving up north, I was getting more and more intrigued by the signs announcing its existence and inviting to its different parts. I was particularly intrigued by the Cape Disappointment State Park, mostly because of its cool name.

I managed to convince Anil that we absolutely needed to go to that park and I think he was not disappointed that we did ☺ Even though the weather was gloomy and at times it was raining, we enjoyed the park a lot as it had very peaceful and serene energy. We were also amazed that we saw more species of birds than people. We hanged out for quite a bit at the North Jetty enjoying the views of the Columbia River delta, where its waters mix with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and two lighthouses.

To the right we had the North Head and to the left of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouses. The latter is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast. It was constructed in 1856 to protect mariners from the treacherous river bar known by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific."

The story behind the park's name is an interesting one: "In 1788, while in search of the Columbia River, English Captain John Meares missed the passage over the river bar and named the nearby headland Cape Disappointment for his failure in finding the river. In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully crossed the river bar and named the river "Columbia" after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. Only a few years later, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment." In the park, there are several short hikes, many of which follow routes that Capt. Clark and the Corps took to explore the ocean beach below.

More information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the first United States expedition to the Pacific Coast that was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, can be found on National Geographic or Wikipedia page.

The Waikiki Beach:

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse:

A seagull flying over our heads:

The North Jetty:

The North Head Lighthouse:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ships on the Columbia River in Astoria

Columbia River enters the ocean in Astoria, a lovely little town located in Oregon, just next to the boarder with Washington. It is seventh longest and by volume it is the fourth largest river in the US. Its delta is definitely very impressive and it looks more like a big lake or ocean, than a river. It must also be pretty deep as there were many large transporter ships cruising on it. We got to Astoria around sundown, which added even more charm to the ships on the river:

Bridge connecting Oregon with Washington:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The North Oregon Coast

I find Oregon coast very picturesque and just could not stop taking photos of its different parts. I was particularly captivated by the rocks sticking out of the sand. Thanks to them every bit of the coast looked slightly different and beautiful in its own way.

Below are two photos of Haystack Rock, a 235-foot (72-meter) sea stack in Cannon Beach, Oregon:

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Central Oregon Coast

In Oregon, U.S. Route 101 is seldom out of sight of the Pacific Ocean, which gave me ample chances to admire the beauty and diversity of the Oregon Coast. I was amazed how much it was changing from south to north (e.g. it was getting greener) and how different it was from the Pacific Coast in California.

Central Oregon Coast:

On a side note, Anil and I drove together the full length of Hwy 101, all the way from its southern terminus in Los Angeles in California, to the northernmost point in Port Angeles in Washington. We did not do that during a single trip, but I think it is still pretty impressive taking into account that the full length of the highway is around 1550 miles (2500 km).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Riding ATVs in the Dunes

A large part of the South Oregon Coast is covered by dunes. That gave me a brilliant idea: we should try either dune surfing or riding ATVs (all terrain vehicles) there. In Florence, we found a shop that was renting out boogies, as well as bigger multi-wheel vehicles. When I saw from up close how massive boogies were, I was ready to give up and suggested to Anil renting the multi-wheeler instead, as it looked more stable and safe. My husband refused to do that, saying that it was my idea to rent ATVs, so I had to stick with it. I could not argue with that, so we ended up renting two ATVs for one hour.

We listened to a safety tape informing us how dangerous riding ATVs was, we got a short introduction into how to operate them, and then off we went to the dunes. Already riding on a dirt road leading to them was challenging. My boogie was turning left and right all the time, and it was constant work to keep it going straight. I had even more trouble keeping a straight course while trying to go up a dune and the first several times I ended up circling back to the bottom of it, instead of going across it. But through trial and error, I learned how to get my vehicle to the top of a dune.

ATVs do not have particularly strong engines, so driving them is not as easy as you might think. To go uphill you need to drive it at a full speed, and you’d better make sure not to slow down even for a second, as then you might get stuck in the sand. Starting an ATV pointing towards the top of the dune is pretty much impossible, so if you do get stuck, you need to turn it around and point it downhill. As I managed to get stuck once, I can tell you that turning it is not easy. Even with the help of Anil, I barely managed to do it.

Additionally, as dunes are uniform in color and reflect the sun very well, it is very difficult to decipher their precise shapes and steepness. Therefore, as you reach the top of the dune, you need to slow down to make sure you will not collide with a person that might be coming from the other side. Because all of that I was constantly worried that I would either collide with somebody, or that my ATV would collapse on me. My fear prevented me from having as much fun as I should have had and after a mere hour in the dunes, I was completely exhausted and almost collapsed in the car.

As you can see, my brilliant idea–like so many of them–backfired. Still, I have no regrets and I thought that it was an interesting experience. I’m also sure that I’ll do much better next time, now that I know what to expect.

A few photos:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meyers Creek Beach

Meyers Creek Beach is another example of the beauty of the Oregon coast:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The South Oregon Coast

“You are in Oregon now” – shouted to us a woman at the gas station.
“All right” – shouted back Anil. Seeing a surprised look at my face, he added “In Oregon you can not tank a car yourself. You have to wait for a gas station employee to do it for you”.
“Aha” – I replied, raising my eyebrows in disbelief. I was surprised that from the sentence “You are in Oregon now” I was supposed to infer that I can not tank the car myself... "It will be interesting trip" - I thought - "We are just a few miles north of California and it already feels like a completely different country".

I do have to admit though that thanks to this interesting “welcome” to Oregon I’m bound to always remember not to dare to tank my car myself whenever I'm there.

Driftwood and huge rocks sticking out from the sand on the coast will also always remind me of Oregon (and Washington). I found it amazing how different Oregon and Washington coast is from the Californian coast and that you can easily tell one from the other just by looking at a single picture.

Here are a few photos of the Southern Oregon Coast that I took:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boy Scout Hike in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

From Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we drove further north to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, where we spent the following night. It was already late afternoon when we got there, so we quickly set up the tent to have enough daylight for the hike we had planned.

We set out for a 7-mile long (round trip) Boy Scout Hike, which was both amazing and disappointing. The amazing aspect of the trail were the giant Redwood trees, which made us feel like dwarfs. Disappointment came from the waterfall at the end of the trail, which was supposed to be the highlight of our hike. However, the waterfall was so small that I’m not even sure if it deserves to be called that. I would still recommend this hike, as long as you are more interested in a beautiful forest hike than seeing a waterfall.

The hike took us around 3h and I would consider it to be easy. It was mostly flat and shaded, and it seemed like a nice hike to do with kids.

Redwood Forest:

That's the waterfall at the end of the hike: